The Thinking Box

Live life at its best

Posted Mar 29, 2011

Head in box and out of box
Myths About Thinking
Myth One - Negative Thoughts are bad.
Myth Two - Positive Affirmations are good.
Myth Three - You can "think yourself" into a better life.

Realities About Thinking
Reality One - Negative Thoughts are not bad.
Reality Two - Positive Affirmations don't work for long.
Reality Three - Life is better outside the "thinking box".

Negative Thoughts Only Go Away When You Are Brain Dead
The mind naturally works with both positive and negative thoughts. When we have the thought high, there must be a low; if we think good, there is a bad, for happy there is a sad, and healthy has an unhealthy. If you suddenly flatlined, your doctor could say, "Wow, he finally got rid of his negative thoughts!"

The Power of Positive Thinking is Zero
What if you walked down the street saying to yourself "I'm kind; I'm a good person"? You may have some negative concerns about your kindness that you're trying to correct with positive affirmations. Masking the negative by using positive affirmations puts you in a "thinking box."

The Thinking Box
From a neuroscience viewpoint, a thought is just a secretion, a droplet of a chemical where two brain cells connect (synapse). A branch of mind-body medicine, Mind-Body Bridging, has investigated how certain thoughts fill your body with tension while others do not. Our research focuses on the Identity System (I-System). The I-System's job is to manage who we think we are; our identity. It does this by forcing any thought that is not in agreement with who we think we are out of our mind and into our body. In doing so the negativity of the thought is embedded into cells of our body. Then the I-System responds to this body tension by trying to "Fix" the situation with positive affirmations. Now, the thinking box is created and no amount of thinking can get you out.

Man in a box
Make the Box
Try the following exercise:
1. Think about something negative.
2. Keep mulling over the thought for a minute or so.
3. Experience your body tension and recognize where it is located.
4. You are now in your box.
5. Try positive affirmations to fix it.
6. What happens?

Man with lightbulb

Dissolve the Box
1. Think the same negative thought as in the last exercise.
2. Now say to yourself; "I am having the thought .... (your negative thought). This Thought Labeling technique helps you recognize that a thought is just a thought and works to prevent that thought from crossing over the mind-body connection.
3. Label that thought again. Now listen to the background sounds, feel the fabric of your clothes, feel the weight of your seat on the chair, your feet on the floor; use your senses.
4. When the body tension lets up, you have rested your I-System and stopped the thought from entering your body.
5. Now you are free to deal appropriately with the thought without being hampered by body tension.

Mind-Body Harmony
Mind-Body Bridging allows you to walk through life and deal appropriately with whatever thoughts your mind gives you. Thought Labeling allows you to experience that a thought is just a thought and using your senses allows you to live a better life out of the box.

I'd like to hear about your experience with your thinking box. 


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Block, S.H., and C.B. Block. 2010. Mind-Body Workbook for PTSD: A 10-Week Program for Healing After Trauma. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.

Block, S.H., and C.B. Block, 2007. Come To Your Senses: Demystifying the Mind-Body Connection 2nd Edition. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing.

Block, S. H., S. H. Ho, and Y.Nakamura. 2009. A brain basis for transforming consciousness with Mind-Body Bridging. Paper presented at Toward a Science of Consciousness 2009 conference, June 12, at Hong Kong Polytechnical University, Hong Kong, China, Abstract 93.

Boly, M., C. Phillips, E. Balreau, C. Schnakers, C. Degueldre, G. Moonen, A. Luxen, P. Peigneux, M.-E. Faymonville, P. Maquet, and S. Laureys. 2008a. Consciousness and cerebral baseline activity Fluctuations. Human Brain Mapping 29 (7):868-74.

Boly, M., C. Phillips, L. Tshibanda, A. Vanhaudenhuyse, M. Schabus, T. T. Dang-Vu, G. Moonen, R. Hustinx, P. Maquet, and S. Laureys. 2008b. Intrinsic brain activity in altered states of consciousness: How conscious is the default mode of brain function? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1129:119-29.

Nakamura, Y., D. L. Lipschitz, R. Landward, R. Kuhn, and G. West. 2011 (forthcoming). Two sessions of sleep focused mind-body bridging improve self-reported symptoms of sleep and PTSD in veterans: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Journal of Psychosomatic Research.

About the Author

Stanley Block

Stanley H. Block, M.D., is an adjunct professor of psychiatry. His most recent book is the Mind-Body Workbook for PTSD.

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